By Bob Hutchinson (UCSBDad)
DISCLAIMER: It's all yours, Rockne, David, and all of the rest of you.
RATING: S for 'shippy.
SPOILERS: Only if you've never watched Farscape.
ARCHIVING: Anyone who wants to buy me a cold Azteca is welcome to it all.
TIME: The indeterminate future, as usual
It wasn't fair. It just wasn't fair. Every scrap of data I had said that a wormhole was absolutely impossible in this solar system. I ran my data over in my head again and came to the same conclusion. This was impossible.
"Crichton, we're still being pulled in. I need some ideas now."
I thought very briefly about turning around and telling the wormhole to go away. A microt later I had an idea. "Aeryn, turn into the wormhole. Don't fight it. Use the pull of the wormhole to build our speed and then turn out of it."
Aeryn turned her Prowler on it's tail and headed for the wormhole that had been chasing us. It looked huge and kept getting bigger. I tried to keep from back seat driving, but I was just about to scream to Aeryn to turn when she did. The force of the turn slammed me into the side of the Prowler's cockpit, and for just a microt I thought we were going to make it. We shot towards the edge of the opening, but our speed fell off too rapidly. We didn't miss by much, but it was enough. We hit the side of the wormhole. It felt like hitting an iceberg at full throttle. Aeryn's Prowler started tumbling and we were headed down the throat of the wormhole.
Sometimes all you can do with Aeryn is stand back and watch her in awe. I'm a good pilot myself and I've seen great pilots, both on Earth and in the Uncharted Territories. But for my money Aeryn Sun is the best there is. For a good three or four hundred microts the wormhole turned and twisted violently. If we'd hit the side again, at this speed, we'd be torn to pieces. Aeryn's hands and feet worked the controls of the Prowler and her eyes seemed to be everywhere. Somehow she kept us safe in the middle of the wormhole. Then we were in open space. Ahead of us I could dimly make out a star in the distance.
Aeryn turned around. "Are you all right, John?"
I decided I was, except for a headache and told her so. She had me start checking the readouts in the rear cockpit and inventorying what we had. Long experience had taught us never to leave Moya without max fuel, air, food and survival gear. But her Prowler was cramped and there wasn't room for much.
After a quarter of an arn I leaned forward to talk to Aeryn. "We have about enough air for six days, and fuel, food and water for a little longer. Not that we'll need it if we run out of air. Is there a planet in this solar system we can land on?"
Aeryn was working on the instruments in her cockpit. "I can't tell yet, John. These are tactical sensors. They aren't designed to explore new territories. But I think I can tweak them enough to get us some basics on this system."
Aeryn had used the English word "tweak." I wanted to tell her how proud I was that the technophobe I once knew could tweak her instruments, but decided she didn't need the distraction. But I filed it away for later.
I helped her by handing her tools or working on instruments in my part of the cockpit and before I knew it, Aeryn gave me a smile and said, "I think we're getting some data. John, we're about three quarter of a million metras from a gas giant with a ring around it. It has moons, but nothing Sebacea-like." She pointed to a small scope and I could just make out what looked like a ball with a line around it.
Aeryn's hands ran over her controls again. "Sunward of that planet is another gas giant, about a quarter again the size of our neighbor, I think. A lot of moons on this one, but nothing we can use. And after that, frell, nothing we can use again. Just a lot of orbital debris."
A sudden thought hit me. No, it couldn't be, could it? I tried to stay calm. "Aeryn, is the next planet in a small rocky planet with two small moons?"
Aeryn checked her instruments and punctured my balloon. "No, John. It's small and rocky, but it has no moons. Do you think we've been in this system before?"
No point in looking foolish, so I just told Aeryn that we hadn't been here before.
But after a few microts she turned to me. "John, there are two very small moons around that planet. I can hardly pick them out, but they are there. How did you know?"
Now I really had rattlers. I leaned over Aeryn's shoulder so I could see her instruments. "Aeryn, start checking for communications from the third planet."
I think Aeryn knew, but she didn't say anything. Suddenly I heard, " …eather Service predicts the Russian River will hit flood stage at about 3 AM. Resident's should…"
Aeryn turned it off. I could feel her stiffen and saw her hand go the pulse rifle clipped to the side of her cockpit. "It's Earth, isn't it, John?"
I put my hands on her shoulders, and looked to the point where Earth should be. I whispered "Yes."
"I will not be taken prisoner, John. I will not be kept in a cage like an animal and studied. I will not be studied to death. I can land you back on Earth and leave. I'll look for other inhabitable planets in the vicinity of Earth. I can come back for you, John, later."
"Aeryn, I've told you before. I will not leave you. Never."
Aeryn relaxed ever so slightly and reached up and took my hand in hers. "John, you'll be safe on Earth. It is your home. I can find…"
"Nothing." I finished for her. "Aeryn, we're not as advanced as you. But we have checked around our neighborhood. Not with our bodies, but with our minds. We've found a handful of planets near Earth. None of them capable of supporting life as we know it. We have six days worth of air. If we don't land on Earth, we die. And Aeryn, leaving you alone is not an option. If we die, we die together. But our best, maybe our only, chance is Earth. Besides, I've given a lot of thought to how to get back to Earth without ending up in some sort of prison."
Aeryn leaned back a little and started running her thumb over my fingers. She was deciding and I wanted so badly to beg her to come with me, to say anything and everything I could think of to make her come with me. But I was afraid I'd just scare her off.
After the longest thirty microts in my life, Aeryn chuckled. "Well, that's what you do best, Butch. Thinking."
I let out a breath I hadn't realized I was holding. "Ready for Earth, Sundance?"
Aeryn relaxed and leaned back onto me. She squeezed my hand. "Anyplace but Bolivia, Butch. So what's your plan?"
I wondered for just a microt how an alien with a knowledge of Earth movies would play on Earth. "First, we'll keep track of the Earth news to make sure nothing drastic has happened since I left. Then we head for Cape Kennedy. That's where I left Earth from. Most of the people are civilian employees of NASA or IASA and have known me for years. Some are close friends. As a matter of fact, some of the real old timers knew my Dad when he was in the Apollo Program. They remember me as an obnoxious little kid."
Aeryn turned around and gave me a look, but at least she didn't say anything.
"And best of all, Aeryn, if there is one place on Earth where the people will see you as a treasure to be protected and not a threat to be eliminated, it's at the Cape."
"And if the news is bad, or things don't work out at this Cape, John?"
"Then we fall back on Plan B, Aeryn."
"Excuse me. But in human terms, doesn't Plan B mean that when the original plan turns into a shambles, we make it up as we go along?"
"Then, as long as our options are perfectly clear, I say we go to Earth."
Aeryn turned back and with a little help from me, found an all news radio station.
I had decided what I had to do next. "Aeryn, turn all the way around and face me."
Aeryn looked over her shoulder at me. "I can see you now, John and I need to stay ready in case I need to make a course correction."
"Please, Aeryn. We're in the middle of nowhere. You won't need to pilot the Prowler. And I need to talk to you."
Aeryn nodded and pushed the back of her seat down and wriggled around facing me.
I put my arms around her and pulled her close. "Aeryn Sun, I love you. Will you marry me?"
Aeryn's expression changed and I couldn't read it anymore. I panicked and started babbling. "Be my wife…husband and wife…partner…companion…is there a Sebacean word for marriage?…"
Suddenly, a very unpleasant thought hit me. I kept babbling. "But if you don't feel….I mean, if I'm not who you…"
I'll never get used to how strong and fast Aeryn is. Before I knew what was happening she had both arms around me and was kissing me.
She broke the kiss and smiled at me. "To answer your second question, I love you, John. But don't you think this is the wrong time to be considering our relationship?"
"Aeryn, our lives are about to change immeasurably. I don't know if the change will be good or bad, I just hope it will be good. But it will be huge for both of us. Whatever happens I want us to face it as husband and wife, as partners. Just in case we don't get another chance."
Aeryn considered that for a while. "To answer your first question, there is a Sebacean word for marriage, but not a Peacekeeper word, so to speak. My parents were very lucky to stay together long enough to decide they cared for each other and to conceive me. But my father never saw me, and my mother never saw him again that I know of. Relationships are not permitted in the Peacekeepers, John. Oh, some Peacekeepers who are too old or too disabled to serve anymore have relationships, of a sort. But it's mainly for convenience. After a life time of training, any kind of emotional content would be foreign to them."
I hugged her. "Everything that I feel for you is very emotional. Does that bother you?"
"No. I've assumed…thought…hoped that we would be together permanently. I just never considered a formal declaration of how we felt."
Any time the unflappable Aeryn Sun had trouble deciding what words to use, she was in trouble. "You have to consider a formal declaration now, Aeryn."
Aeryn drew back a little from me. "And, as usual, I have to do the long term strategic planning for one John Crichton, human being. Have you considered this carefully, John? How will people on Earth take your having a Sebacean wife? Will they consider you to be irreversibly contaminated? Will they accept us?"
I did have to stop and consider that. "No one on Earth has ever met someone from another intelligent species. We have no taboos about contamination. Unfortunately, we have enough hate for each other that it probably won't make much difference if we add one Sebacean. Some people will hate us, but they'll hate us whether we're married or not. The people that I care for and that I think are important to us won't care. And Aeryn, I care very much about marrying you."
Aeryn seemed to accept that, but she brought up another problem. "John, it seems I made an error in not bringing Zhaan along with us. How are we going to marry with our only priestess somewhere on the other side of the galaxy?"
I smiled. I do believe I have her. "Fortunately, in my wild youth, I took a course in college called Legal Philosophy. It was one of those touchy feely liberal arts courses we engineering majors had to take, but the prof was one of the best teachers….."
I saw I was losing Aeryn and got back to business. "My nation, the United States claims no jurisdiction in space. Neither does any other Earth nation. You were a Peacekeeper, but you were kicked out. All the other members of the crew have been kicked out of their own nations and live on a sentient starship. I think that Moya and her crew form our own society, our own nation, sort of.."
Aeryn cut me off, "Sort of the Grand Anarchy of Moya?"
"I don't think we should use that terminology on Earth, but yes. We're millions of miles, er, metras, from Earth. So if you and I decide we're married under the laws of the Great State of Moya, then we are."
Aeryn looked like she believed me. "You're sure about this?"
"Yes, Aeryn I'm sure."
It was good thing the Peacekeeper legal system resembled a kangaroo court and Aeryn had no real basis to consider my legal philosophizing. I had a sneaking suspicion that any good Earth lawyer could shoot our Moyan marriage full of holes if they knew the truth. But they'd have to find the truth first and they wouldn't get that from John Crichton. If Aeryn was my wife, and the government tried to lock her up, I could raise Hell about my wife being deprived of her freedom without due process. Also, I was pretty sure that marrying me would make Aeryn a US citizen, which would be one more protection for her. And, if we could get away for a couple of arns, I'd have Aeryn in front of a Florida Justice of the Peace and have a marriage no one could doubt. I'd marry Aeryn according to the rites of every religion on Earth if that would protect her. If Aeryn was going to Earth with me, it was up to me to make sure she would be safe and happy there. Anyone who tried to prevent that would regret it. But, I didn't want Aeryn thinking our marriage was part of some strategic plan of mine. I knew how much I loved her and I didn't want her thinking I married her for anything other than love. And I dearly love my ex-Peacekeeper.
"How do we proceed, John? The Grand Anarchy of Moya doesn't really have any rules about marriage."
"I've been to some friend's marriages, and I remember the important parts of the ceremony, I'll use that. How about you, Aeryn?"
"Sebacean civilian marriage rituals are simple, so I think I can manage."
I took my Dad's good luck ring out and took it off its chain. I looked into Aeryn's blue eyes and asked myself if I was really this lucky.
"Aeryn Sun, I do take you as my lawfully wedded wife, to love, honor and cherish all the days of my life. In sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, 'til death do us part. With this ring I thee wed." I slipped the ring on Aeryn's finger.
Aeryn took my right hand in hers and placed the back of my hand on her forehead. "John Crichton, I am your wife." She squeezed my hand until I thought that Sebacean weddings must include screams of pain from the groom, but she finally let me go.
"Are we married, John?"
"As soon as I kiss the bride." I drew Aeryn to me and kissed her long and passionately. Then I released her and smiled. "How does it feel to be Mrs. Crichton?"
"Mrs. Crichton? You didn't tell me I have to give up my name."
"You can be Mrs. Aeryn Sun, or Ms. Sun, or Aeryn Sun-Crichton, or even Aeryn Crichton Sun. As long as everyone on Earth knows we're husband and wife."
I pulled Aeryn to me and leaned back in the Prowler's cramped cockpit. "I'm sorry I couldn't get you a better honeymoon, Aeryn."
Aeryn waited patiently for a couple of microts until I realized she had no idea what a honeymoon was. We were getting better at communicating.
"A honeymoon is a trip newlyweds take after marriage. They go some where nice, spend time alone together, stay in a nice place, eat and drink too much, and fool around. When we're on Earth, I promise you the best honeymoon any Sebacean ever had."
Aeryn smiled a beautiful, dazzling smile. "Since I'm the first Sebacean to go on a honeymoon, you should have no trouble keeping your promise. But there's nothing wrong with this honeymoon. We are alone in a beautiful solar system. I'm proud of my Prowler and certainly think it qualifies as a nice place to stay. I'm a soldier, so even food cubes and water is great to me. As far as fooling around, I'm sure no Peacekeeper male would even consider it in a Prowler, and in a strange solar system. What about human males?"
Sometimes all you can do with Aeryn is stand back and watch her in awe. This was not one of those times.
Two arns later, I was re-closing the last clasps on Aeryn's space suit. "I'm hungry, how about you, Aeryn? Some food cubes and water?"
"That's required for a honeymoon, isn't it?"
I answered her by handing her some green food cubes and a jar of water. I turned up the radio and listened to the news. Much the same wars seemed to be going on as when I had left, and one or two new ones. It seemed like nothing had changed in the cycles I had been gone. I started trying to explain Earth politics and society to Aeryn. Not surprisingly, she absorbed all of the information I could give her and asked questions I had trouble answering. Once we were on Earth, I'd have to remind myself that Aeryn wasn't just a soldier and a pilot with an affinity for living star ships. I thought that John Crichton, Ph.D. might not be the smartest member of the family.
"I've been thinking about my trip to the Ancients version of Earth, Aeryn. I think I spent too much time trying to convince everybody that John Crichton was no threat."
"If you're planning on being a threat to Earth with my Prowler and a pistol and rifle apiece, I hope you have an absolutely brilliant strategy in mind, John."
"I'm not planning to threaten anyone, Aeryn. But it wouldn't hurt to mention that our good friend Pa'u Zhaan is a Delvian religious leader who has entire planets full of devoted followers. Who knows how many holy warriors she might send looking for us?"
Aeryn gave me a look I'd seen before. She was wondering how I had managed to act like a Human again after she had spent so much time teaching me to behave properly. "Look, Aeryn, you and I know that the number of holy warriors she can send is an even one: D'Argo. And holy warrior is a stretch for him. We also know that her billions of devoted followers are being kept in line by the Peacekeepers. But no one on Earth knows that. I think they'll treat us a little better if they think they may have to answer to a couple of million blue warrior vegetables. Okay?"
Aeryn giggled. "I shudder to think what His Eminence, Rygel XVI, Dominar of six hundred billion Hynerians would do if he got worried about us. I shudder because I know that he'd either fart helium, or he'd fart a lot of helium, if he got worried."
We talked a little more and decided to get some sleep. Tomorrow would be a big day.
I awoke with Aeryn's head slamming into my chest and my head slamming into the Prowlers deck.
"Hezmana, John. It's the wormhole."
Aeryn struggled to get to the controls while I was thrown from side to side in the rear. By the time I got my seat belt on, we were well into the wormhole. I said nothing, but sat silently thanking I had Aeryn for a pilot.
Proving that the only truly unlikely occurrence is a life where there are no unlikely occurrences, the wormhole dropped us right behind Moya, lined up neatly on her landing bay.
"Pilot. Open the landing bay doors, we're back."
I though I heard both surprise and relief in Pilot's voice. "Officer Sun, is Commander Crichton with you?"
"Really, Pilot. Do you think I'd misplace John? I'm sure he's in here someplace."
I wasn't too sure about Pilot's sense of humor, so I said, "How's everything, Pilot?"
"Fine now, Commander. I'll advise the others of your return. They will be quite happy, I'm sure."
We stopped at the end of the bay and Aeryn opened the canopy of her Prowler. She stood up and stretched and said to no one in particular, "Since we didn't get to Earth, I suppose it's lucky that this marriage isn't permanent."
My heart thudded to somewhere past my boots. A million questions shot through my mind. Had I explained divorce to Aeryn sometime in the past? Had she only agreed to the marriage because she was afraid of Earth? This was not good.
Aeryn bent down and took my hands and pulled me upright. I felt two strong, familiar arms go around me. I looked down into a radiant smile and a pair of very mischievous blue eyes. "As I understand the human ritual, John, the marriage only lasts for our lifetimes. Correct, Mr. Crichton?"
"Correct, Mrs. Crichton. Not one microt longer, and not one microt less."
As we dropped to Moya's deck, the bay doors opened and our friends came in, Zhaan in the lead. "Thank, the Goddess, you're both all right. We were frightened something had happened to you."
Aeryn casually extended her left hand to show off her ring. "Something did happen. We dropped by Earth and got married."
Aeryn and I have agreed that our first and best wedding presents were the expressions on our friend's faces.